Contemporary Ethical Theory

Autumn 2018

This module explores some of the most fundamental questions of ethics. What ultimately matters? Should you ultimately be concerned with your own interests? Do the ends always justify the means? We will also consider some questions about the nature of ethics and ethical theory.


Schedule


1. What is ethical theory?

    Thomas Nagel, ‘Right and Wrong’


2. Can ethics be objective?

    J. L. Mackie, ‘The Subjectivity of Values’, Sections 7-10
    David Enoch, ‘Why I’m an Objectivist about Ethics (and Why You Are Too)’


3. Is enjoying ourselves what ultimately matters?

    Robert Nozick, ‘The Experience Machine’
    Roger Crisp, ‘Well-Being’


4. Is getting what we want what ultimately matters?

    Derek Parfit, ‘What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best’
    Chris Heathwood, ‘The Problem of Defective Desires’


5. Should you ultimately be concerned with what would be best for you?

    Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Concluding Chapter


6. Should you ultimately be concerned with what would be best for the world?

    Samuel Scheffler, The Rejection of Consequentialism, Chaps. 1, 3


7. Do the ends always justify the means?

    Robert Nozick, ‘Moral Constraints and Moral Goals’ and ‘Why Side Constraints?’
    Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Book III, Chap. 6, Sections 5-9; Chap. 11, Section 2


8. Is morality ultimately about asking: ‘What if everyone did that?’

    Allen W. Wood, ‘The Formula of Universal Law’


9. Is morality ultimately about following an ideal social code?

    Richard B. Brandt, ‘Toward a Credible Form of Utilitarianism’
    Abelard Podgorski, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Moral Rules and Distant Worlds’


10. Do we need ethical theories?

    Brad Hooker, ‘Theory vs. Anti-theory in Ethics’